Obviously, no one wants to lose by almost 30, as the Clippers did in their first pre-season game, Tuesday in Portland. But it could be worse. How? Well, you could lose by over 50, as the Suns did against Toronto last night in Vancouver.
And in both cases, "it's just pre-season".
Even before reading Citizen Zhiv's creatively optimistic explanation of Coach Vinny Del Negro's strategy in Portland, I had already more or less dismissed any major significance in that loss. It was the first pre-season game of the season, the first game against an actual opponent in the Del Negro era. The Clippers were playing without their starting backcourt, 9 of the 14 players who appeared in the game were not even with the team last season (10 of 14 if you count Blake Griffin), and a 20 year old rookie played the second most minutes of anyone on the team. Portland is on the other end of the stability spectrum. Yes, their top three centers were out, but most of the players who did play were with the team last season (9 or 13), and most of the minutes went to players who were there last season. The Clippers are trying to implement a completely new system with a majority of new players. Portland is integrating a couple pieces into an established framework. Which team would you expect to play well in their first pre-season game?
In that context, you'd want to see improvement in tonight's second pre-season game in Sacramento. The Kings do have the advantage of being in their second season under coach Paul Westphal, but they have a lot of new faces, some of whom (like DeMarcus Cousins) are being counted on to be major contributors. Like the Clippers, the Kings are playing their second pre-season game, having beaten those hapless pre-season Suns on Tuesday, behind big nights from the Calipari Kids, Tyreke Evans (26 points in 27 minutes) and Cousins (16 points and 16 rebounds, the coveted hexadecimal double double).
Unfortunately, the Clippers' thin pre-season backcourt is getting thinner (as measured on the depth chart, and not necessarily on Baron's waist). According to Lisa Dillman of the Times, Eric Bledsoe has a sprained ankle and is doubtful, while Willie Warren remains out with an adductor strain. As for Eric Gordon (who sat out Tuesday's game just to get some rest after a busy summer playing in the World Championships) and Baron Davis: "Del Negro said Gordon might get some minutes against Sacramento, but he wasn't so sure that Davis would play Thursday night." So this sounds like the perfect game to watch if you're a big Duke or Kutztown U fan, since Jon Scheyer and Stephen Dennis figure to get plenty of opportunity. Oh, and there's another game tomorrow night.
Even if the back court is going to be shorthanded, there could be some interesting battles in the front court. Chris Kaman versus Cousins (and also DeAndre Jordan versus Cousins) could be an interesting matchup; and then there's Carl Landry versus Blake Griffin. The other interesting aspect of this game is that it features last season's rookie of the year (Evans) and two leading candidates for the award this season (Griffin and Cousins).
Sadly, it seems we'll be limited to words again tonight, as the game is not on television as far as I know. So tune into KFWB, AM 980 to listen... if you dare.